Thursday, February 28, 2008

Nocturnal Confessions

I was lying in Betsy's bed, her foot wedged between my ribs, thinking. It was 3 in the morning. We started out in my bed - "Mommy I don't feel well and I miss you" - but she had thrown up all over it. So we moved to her bed.

There's just so much to think about at 3 in the morning! There's financial aid, taxes, the strange rattle coming from the right rear of my car, work, the dream I had about feeding my therapist rice and black beans, the pellet stove our next door neighbors installed that is venting directly into our windows, and how to navigate the coming child-home-sick-from-school day(s). To say nothing of politics, religion, death and Lucy and I who seem to be in the terrible two's of our relationship.

"What would a dog be doing?" I asked myself at 3:00 a.m. as Lucy suggested I do every few hours to see whether I really am ready for a dog. What would the dog be doing now?


At 3:05 a.m. it occurred to me what I need in life is more debt. More debt would enable us to be eligible for more financial aid. And if that debt came in the form of a car, it might also enable us key-less entry and satellite radio. It seemed like a good idea. Note to self: buy unaffordable car.

At 3:15 I started thinking I wanted to have a baby. No no, I would adopt a baby. Betsy could be an older sister, I could do the mothering-of-an-infant thing better than I did the first time, our little family wouldn't feel so little and, of course, we would be eligible for more financial aid.

At 3:30 I thought I smelled gas. I dragged myself out of Betsy's bed to check the stove, the oven, the lights, the front yard, the back door, upstairs, downstairs. Wouldn't it be nice if we lived in a small one-story Japanese home like the one we visit at the Children's Museum? Did I mention on the financial aid forms that Betsy is a quarter Japanese, it could only help.

At 3:45 I tried to imagine life without Lucy and got really sad until 4:00 when I asked myself again, "What would the dog be doing?"

At 4:15 Betsy stirred. I quickly grabbed a small trashcan, lined it with a plastic bag from Toys R Us, and positioned it near her. We spend so much money on toys. What if the school knew?

At 4:30 the cat tried to fly from the nightstand to the top bunk. I wrestled her down and then had to feed her. Too bad I can't declare her as a dependent.

At 5:00, with dawn only an hour away, I fell asleep.

Betsy was fine today. But here comes the night.

I wonder what the dog is doing.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

If You Give A Girl A Cookie

I was looking at pictures of Saturn in the newspaper and reading about how satellite photos are revealing all sorts of unexpected gases and flashing light in Saturn's atmosphere and it got me thinking: Is this what earth looked like before life, or Is this what a planet looks like after all life is wiped out, or Maybe the gases themselves are life. And then I had to admit we earthlings are so limited in our fantasies of alien life forms, always assuming they will have eyes and mouths and heads just as we do.

But maybe life on other planets comes in entirely other forms. Maybe the gas is life. Maybe viruses are alien life forms. Maybe fog and clouds are.

This all of course got me thinking about Kurt Vonnegut which got me thinking about high school which got me thinking about my own childhood, which got me thinking about how fast life goes by, how one day I was on the front lawn with my Klick-Klacks (careful they don't chip lest a shard shoot in your eye) and the next I was a single mother living in a two-family house.
This of course got me thinking about real estate, how I would like to move to a larger home but can't because Betsy is absolutely in love with the little girl and boy who live upstairs, considers them her house-siblings, which is wonderful given she is an only child, and so here I am.

Which got me thinking,which I always do, about how you never ever know what course your life will take, how one day you might find yourself choosing to stay cramped in a two-family so that your kid can shout upstairs and have an instant play-date, which got me thinking about new cars - if I can't get a new house, then maybe I can get a new car - which made me wonder just what kind of car I would get and my first thought was it has to have room for the dog which reminded me I hadn't blogged in a bit and in the meantime a dog has come into our lives.

Well she might.

She's in foster care in North Carolina because there just was not a dog in all of New England or the mid-Atlantic that I could cathect to as much as this little girl who is small and gentle and calm and in need of a home and did I mention lives in North Carolina.

But how to get her here?

And walking her in the winter? When Betsy refuses to leave the house? When I'm sick?

And the expense. Note: check price of pet insurance.

Phone homeopath and acupuncturist to get me in tip-top shape.

Can you change the name of a dog who already is a year old?

Possibly adopting this dog also got me thinking about long walks in the Arboretum, deepening the already infinite love my daughter experiences in this world, and dog collars and leashes and steaming doodies in plastic bags, which got me thinking about recycling and plastic in general and the state of our ozone, which got me thinking about atmospheric gases which got me thinking about Saturn again.

There's got to be life out there (Saturn's moon, Enceladus, is 99.9% water ice). Lord knows, I hope its frontal lobes are smaller than our own.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Year of the Rat

But is it a dog?

You can have your MTV or Food Channel or CSI or BMI or BMW or Calgon just leave me I figure, after a long day, it's healthier than smoking a pack of Marlboros or mixing several drinks. Just a good 30 minutes kicked back with petfinder and the world melts away.

We almost had passed through this chapter of dog dreaming but then we met a baby dachshund on our way to the Chinese New Year festival and off we went again, Bets and I.

Our life seems to come in themes and this week's theme was the dragon. Betsy has been taking Kempo Karate with her friend Zoe. They love the class almost as much as they love their outfits (Gi) and having to bow as they enter and exit the classroom (Dojo), which is a good start. On Friday their Karate teacher (Sensei) gave them each a small stuffed dragon for being so good (not killing each other) in class.

Betsy has maybe 7899756 stuffed animals but this dragon is in a class unlike any other. Whenever she holds it she gets this very serious look on her face and says, "It's good luck." In fact, it's not really a stuffed animal at all to her. It's a real dragon. Or better yet, it's a miniature of her Sensei. She puts it on her pillow when she goes to bed at night and on Julie Albright's pillow during the day (is there anyone left on earth who doesn't know who Julie Albright is?).

So what better way to ring in my daughter's brush with the martial arts than take her to Chinatown for the New Year celebration. I didn't mention the firecrackers to her. Bets had a bad run-in with the fourth of July last year and definitely wouldn't have wanted to go. Firecrackers are small, nothing like the big boomers of the 4th. So I figured no prob.

There were the most incredible dragons all over town, black and gold, silver and red, orange, green. Bets loved the dragons. And then there was the crack crack crack of the firecrackers. She was taken by surprise but okay with them - as long as I held her, which is getting ridiculous given that my 6-year old is now almost up to my chin. But hold her I did.

We ducked into a restaurant to grab something to eat and give ourselves a break from the crackers crack crack cracking. Yes, one firecracker is little but when you set off an entire pack at one time, it's more like machine gun city.

The restaurant is our favorite, but you have to climb a very steep and narrow flight of stairs to get to the hostess. Once a long time ago, in another lifetime, a friend and I carried my very ill mother up the stairs so she could have dinner out with us that New Year's Eve, Anglo New Years. She was such a good sport and cheered heartily when we made it to the top.

This time, we - Betsy, Lucy and Phoebe and me - were just about to the top when the dragon folks set off what must have been ten packs of firecrackers outside the door to the restaurant. The kids got all wide-eyed as did us adults.

Thank goodness we had ducked inside when we did.

Then someone opened the door. Smoke and the smell of gunpowder (it is gunpowder isn't it?) quickly filled the stairway. The 100 of us crammed inside started to cough and rub our eyes. I ushered the children up the stairs, altruistically elbowing anyone who wasn't moving fast enough. Lucy then ushered us even further inside, up two more narrow stairwells.

On the third floor there was clean air to breathe. There also wasn't an exit in sight. If the place went up in flames we would be sunk. I comforted myself knowing I would die with my child, which is purely neurotic. Better to imagine my child surviving to live a long life without me.

Needless to say the smoke dissipated and we survived. But not without rethinking the value of a dining experience that does not involve exits, not without quickly becoming a person who finds the exits before ever sitting herself down in a room.

Maybe the dragons really were good luck.

I told Bets she''ll have a great story to tell her Sensei next class.

"About the dog at the train station!"

That too.

Next time, I'll take my tea with a teacup chihuahua outdoors.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Get Your Heart On

Seeing Obama surge forth reminds me of the first time I met my ex-father-in-law. A tall white Jewish psychiatrist and a follower of Freud, he was doing his best to welcome me, his daughter's unexpected gender choice, by coming to Provincetown to visit us.

So walking down Commercial Street with its trannies and fannies, rat-tails and sand pails, I tried to put him at ease.

I put my arm around him, "Larry, would you rather your daughter marry a black man or a white woman?"

"Oy vey, what did I do?"

Of course politics are more complicated than matrimony - I think. We are making choices based on issues bigger and broader than gender and race - I think. But still.

The sun is shining for the first time in what feels like years so enough griping. Enough with molestation and dead lesbians. Happy Valentine's Day!

We've made 18 chocolate cupcakes, 18 Valentine's Day cards. We've got pink pink pink as far as the eye can see. We're ready for Valentine's Day, kindergarten style.

And then the sugary sweet-present-laden quartet that is Hannukah/Christmas/Bets' Birthday/Valentine's Day will have passed and while I don't begrudge joy and celebration, I most definitely will emit a resounding "Whew!"

I might even stop short on my path to becoming the Norman Mailer of lesbians, cease my hunting down of molesters and doubting of dead people who ask for money and look forward to spring which is now only 36 days away.

Meanwhile, I'm back to thinking a dog might save the day. Betsy and I go in and out of wanting a dog to join us and the kitty. She holds tight her dream of a teacup Chihuahua she can dress up and I hold tight the fantasy that the perfect dog will one day land upon our doorstep, housebroken, gentle and spayed, able to cook waffles and help me with tax returns.

Betsy says she also would be happy with a hamster or a monkey.

Lucy says, duh, that's why adults choose to live together, because going it alone - especially with a child - is hard.

I say, one day at a time, Bonnie Franklin. Lesbian families are just so vulnerable it seems, to the inner and outer worlds. I don't want to contribute once again to the break-up statistic.

In the meantime, I'll swing my partner round and round, which at our ages will make both of us vomit. You too, have a heart-a-licious day.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lesbian Child Custody Battle???

Well it seems something fishy is going on. This blogger received an email about a sad, wrenching custody battle being fought by two lesbian moms in California. The email I presume is being widely sent as it ends with a plea for donations to assist in a $850 an hour legal battle facilitated by a PayPal account (how considerate!).

The reason for my skepticism, aside from the fact that I'm a distrusting Jew from Jersey and even the most sought after family lawyers in Boston don't charge more than $350 an hour, is that it's signed with names a quick Google search identifies as a 52 year old actress (i.e., an unlikely biological mother of a 3 year old living CA) and a lesbian artist who died in 1972.

Funny someone should try to scam me today the day I located and emailed the boy (now man) who molested me regularly during 7th grade. Blame it on the weather, but I'm in the mood for revenge. If it's him, he's due for a little surprise, being the public figure it seems he now is.

Every week during art class this dude - son of our local kids' shoe salesman - cornered me in the supply closet and copped many a feel. Had then been now, 1974 been 2008, the kid would be in mighty big trouble. But then? You know the story. I didn't even know I got to tell anyone about it.

I've been thinking about it a lot as Lucy's daughter is 12 and it's just such a complex age of childhood and puberty all wrapped around each other. Hormones are bubbling so powerfully it's impossible not to confuse cause and effect (I thought about that boy or girl and therefore I asked for whatever it is they did.) And my family moved from one state to another when I was 12, causing a traumatic wrenching from friends and relatives and my own backyard.

So I'm travelling down memory lane, the rocky stretch, when a dead lesbian asks me for money.

It's enough to piss off a girl, even more than she already is.

So if you happen upon the AARP bio-mom and her dead girlfriend, heads up to you.

And them.

P.S. Maybe they're intentionally using pseudonyms? God Forbid I become lesbian non grata. Still something's awry.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Six Candles

Oh dear I've been drowning in birthday madness as my Betsy turns 6 in just hours. Six years ago this minute I was trailing amniotic fluid across the lobby of Brigham & Women's Hospital.

Six years later my daughter and I bake cupcakes and trade email tips.

Because it's 11 p.m. and I'm dog tired. I leave you not with words, but with pictures of those toys of childhood - my own childhood - that keep popping into mind every time I watch Betsy unwrap a Webkinz or American Girl Doll accessory.

Come on, toys were better way back when, weren't they? We had our own ovens!

We had dolls of color - who were nurses!

Feel good princesses be damned, we worked out our emotional angst with games dared to be called "Trouble".

And my absolute favorite toy of all time, a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car with wings.

I've got happy birthday signs all around the house - our birthday morning ritual, Bets pads around in her pajamas finding each one - 18 cupcakes for 18 classmates, birthday cards addressed to Bets from the kitty and from Julie and Molly (her American Girl Dolls). I packed a special lunch for Bets, and will be going to school with her in the morning to read a book to the class. Sunday was a whopper party and tomorrow night a big dinner.

All this and I forgot a present.

For crying out loud.

I mean Faith and I ordered something that has not yet arrived. Shouldn't we have had a back-up, something wrapped and tied up in a bow?

Sure there are worse things going on in the world every day. Sure we are all spoiled and over indulgent of our children. But darn.

The good thing about six is it's still young enough to pass off everything that happens as entirely normal and okay: having your present in the mail means you get to have your birthday last even longer.

Come on, it's better than being born in a wagon of a traveling show.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Mitt or Mitt-out

Well that explains it.

Oh this is no political blog but I was just going to have to rip Willard (Mitt) Romney for being such a vapid Ken doll who refuses to declare defeat because he is on auto (there is a button between his shoulder blades, flesh colored of course, and it seems to be stuck in the “run for office” position) but then an “examination” of Willard was done bigger and better than I ever could do

I’ve despised him since his defeat of the brilliant Robert Reich for governorship of Massachusetts. Willard won for only one reason I can find: he is tall. Robert Reich barely reaches 5 feet. I am convinced people just cannot vote for an extremely short man over a tall one. To give my species the benefit of the doubt, there must be an evolutionary drive that compels us to honor tall over short.

Yet short people (like myself) have not been bred out of existence. I leave it to the evolutionary biologists to figure out. I’ve got bigger fish to fry.

Like American Girl Doll Books. Dare I admit, they’re not bad.

And birthday parties: this is absolutely the last time we host a party for more than five children. The goodie bags alone are costing more than I spend on shoes.

Hi-5: I kind of have a gay girl/gay boy crush on Curtis.

The School Nurse: Betsy has been visiting the school nurse approximately three times a week. She tells the nurse she has a sore throat and needs an ice pack to hold on her neck. The nurse takes her temperature and gives her ice and off Betsy goes. I feel it’s a way for her to manage being in kindergarten, being just six years out of my womb and off on her own all day to navigate social and academic challenges and having to ask to go to the bathroom.

The Headmaster: This evening Faith and I are having dinner at the home of the headmaster of Betsy’s school. He’s a kind and gentle man who invites groups of parents to his home once during the year until we all have had the honor and he has had a chance to meet and greet each of us. If there is a nurse there I definitely will say I have a sore throat and go visit her for ice and a moment of patting down.

Another thing about Willard: He’s not nice. Friends involved in the gay marriage excitement here in Massachusetts met with Willard at his Beacon Hill office and said he made some snide remark about same-sex couples.

My mother: Still dead. Though I find myself thinking one day there will be a knock on my door. I’ll look out my window and see news cameras and balloons and smiling anchormen and women. At the door will be my mother.
“Honey, it was a joke! But we’re rich.” And then Ed McMahon would tell me and the millions of at-home viewers that my mother feigning her death by ovarian cancer won her 10 million dollars. “So don’t be mad,” my mother would say. But I’d be so freaking mad anyway. Just fantasizing my mother would assume I’d want money more than her makes me mad, which forces me to realize I’m just mad at her for dying but had to go and concoct a whole story about Ed McMahon to get to it.

Willard: If you were named Willard and you were going to choose a new name because Willard is such a duck-ish name, would you choose Mitt?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Imagine My Shame

If you’re a reader from the days when Are You My Mothers was hosted by you’ll remember a story about a classmate of Betsy’s who Bets wanted to have over for a play date. After meeting Faith and I the girl’s mom responded to our play date proposal with an email explaining she doesn’t allow her daughter to have play dates during the school year.

It reeked of homophobia to me and to most of my readers. If it smells like poop, tastes like poop…

This mom had initially been friendly to me and Faith individually and it wasn’t until after she met us together that her tune changed, or so we thought. The seemingly unlikely possibility that her rejection had nothing to do with us being two moms arose weeks later when another mom (straight) in the class acted the spy and invited the girl to her house to see what response she got.

She got the same story.

Well we met the other day, the sorry-no-play-date-mom and I. Our daughters have since become even closer. They wait for each other at the school door each morning, they trade jewelry, and fantasize about getting together. I saw the mom from afar, saw that she was in a room I was about to enter and realized I had no idea what I was in for – a cold shoulder, a forced smile. I gave her wide berth. I didn’t want to call too much attention to myself, to her, to our past interaction.

But she saw me.

And as soon as she did she came rushing over and gave me a big hug.

We had the friendliest chat during which she offered a fuller explanation about why they don’t do play-dates, one that had nothing whatsoever to do with Betsy having two moms and everything to do with some compulsive painstaking effort to prevent any children from feeling bad if they can’t accept a play-date (so they have decided to do none at all until the summer when the children aren’t around each other to compare social lives). I can’t say I understand - hurt feelings are an unavoidable part of growing up. Still I am much relieved, and chagrined.

As we talked our daughters sat squished next to each other on a single chair.
The mom insisted we have a play-date the moment school lets out for the summer. Betsy and her friend want it to be a sleepover.

Betsy also showed me today how she and this friend pretend to kiss each other on the lips.

If there’s anything that will bring out the lovelorn obsessions of two 6-year old girls it’s not letting them see each other after school.

I’m thrilled and happily wiser for having been so wrong. One woman thinks she’s protecting children from hurt. Another thinks everyone’s a homophobe. We each have our issues.

Meanwhile, I need to keep an eye on my daughter, lover-lips. No, not because the daughter of lesbians shouldn’t be kissing other girls, but because strep throat is going around the class room. Geez. Don’t go jumping to conclusions.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Ides of February

We are just 10 days away from Betsy turning 6 and it's all so unbelievable, to think I spent most of my life without a child - life before Betsy lasted 40 years - but now I have absolutely no memory of what that life was like, well almost none.

In honor of the occasion I had the strangest dream. I dreamed a giant white bird lie dying in front of me, giant as in bigger than a sea turtle, bigger than the base of a huge snowman (or woman), all feathers and white but when I looked more closely it was my dying mother (of course) and she was struggling and uncomfortable as she had been during the last week of her life. She mouthed something to me I couldn't understand at first but then saw to be "I'm thirsty" or "I want water" so I offered her a drink but she could no longer swallow and so the water dribbled down her mouth and onto her chest making her even more upset. I felt terrible. Look what I'd done.

This scene is in no way foreign. I'd say it happened with both my mother and grandmother in the weeks prior to their death at least once a day - and worse things, harder things, bizarre things. Like when my mother suddenly opened her eyes and said to me "Bye" in what sounded like the rudest of ways.

"It probably took her the whole day to be able to do that," Lucy said by way of comfort when I told her that 5 years later I still wonder if my mother was being sarcastic. "Byeee."

Or when I raced to her side thinking she was bleeding from her mouth, only to find it was strawberry Jell-o.

Oh I've got a million of them. The ambulance ride from NJ to MA with my newly stroked grandmother.

It's my daughter's birthday and I'm all awash in visions of death and dying. But life is all birth and death, birth and death. Sometimes it just hits you hard over the head like the racquetball I inadvertently nailed my lover with on her chin, that we are young and then old over and over again. And when you're middle-aged like myself you get a good view of both sides of life.

And a dog friend of ours just died.

And wouldn't it be nice to have my mother and grandmother (she'd be 102) here to help prepare Betsy's party?

But the sun she is rising outside my window and there is much life to be lived. Not to mention deciding between Barack and Hillary to be done. All in a day's work.